If you have a kid under the age of 8, chances are you probably have had a fort built in your living room at some point.
You know the kind: hastily created by excited tykes by yanking off the couch cushions and assembling them into an upright square. Sometimes a sheet will be strewn across the top, but not always. In the fort, the child is a soldier or a space pioneer or even a superhero gathering energy (and snacks!) for the next mission. But often, he is just a kid quietly thinking out of plain sight within the confines of the almighty fort.
As a mom or a dad, sometimes you get messages from the fort scribbled by tiny hands and tossed over the top. Many times, the messages are requests for an Oreo or two, or a juice box. If you’re lucky, there might be a drawing of a heart, or the words “I love you” jotted down on a Post-it note. On certain days, you might get the chance to actually speak to the holed-up fort inhabitant.
Back when my kids were young, the sofa cushions spent more time atop the wooden floorboards than on the couch. If nothing else, it was an opportunity to suck up the crumbs with the hand vac or locate that missing Lego or earring. Many times, rather than interrupt the work taking place inside the fort, I’d settle for the lack of cushion just so I could get some work done on my laptop. The fort provided a snug play space which meant that I could string a few sentences together without having to constantly keep one eye on a wandering toddler. I could enjoy a whole phone conversation, or grab some precious minutes of a favorite television show.
But soon the long legs of a preschooler required back-up pillows to complete the fort. And when hours inside the fort were replaced with days inside bustling classrooms, the makeshift castle became a weekend treat until birthday party invitations from classmates and homework took precedence. Suddenly, the couch stayed intact more often than not.
My youngest is now 12 and he’s 5-foot-9. He gets his own snacks and doesn’t pretend to be a space pioneer anymore. When he wants some privacy, he goes to his room. When he wants something to do, he texts a friend. Now, the couch cushions never come off unless I’m cleaning … and I miss those darn forts more than I could have imagined.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl